Tech Joys & Mechanical Failures

May 5, 2013

I don’t vacation often, so when my brother and I decided to take a road trip to Tennessee to visit our parents, it seemed like the perfect kid-free escape. I prepped and planned – charged all my devices, set up everything to function smoothly during my absence at work, and had a bunch of work done to my car. All set.

TennesseeSignThe 1,000-mile trip down was perfect. GPS (or “Lady in the box” as my son calls it) guided our way, we cranked tunes from the iPod and Spotify and when we decided to stop at a few landmarks along the way, I was busy snapping pics to post on Facebook, so my mom could follow us along the way and know how close we were.

This is east Tennessee, filled with long, winding back roads. But the “lady in the box” knew the way.

When we wanted to find someplace other than Cracker Barrel or Shoney’s to eat, I looked it up on my smart phone.  When at dinner, my parents wondered if such and such a store was open, a quick google search could provide an answer. When I missed my fiance and kids back home, I got to see their faces and hear their voices via a Google+ video hangout.

Ah… Isn’t technology wonderful?

Even when email crashed at work, I could still access old emails on my iPad through the gmail account I had everything forwarded to for backup.

Even when my car refused to go into gear, I could call roadside assistance, they could text me the tow truck company info. And I could map the mechanic’s location (which, as it turned out, was right across the street from where I broke down. Duh.) and read customer reviews on Yelp! to see if he was a trustworthy mechanic.

Even when the trustworthy mechanic couldn’t fix my car, I could track what time another tow truck would arrive to bring my car to the Dodge dealership. And a Vermont car dealer could even offer assistance via Twitter.

Even when my smart phone screen died in Gatlinburg, I could still chat with my fiance back home via Facebook on my iPad.

Even when my car checked out fine and I drove it from Tennessee back to New York without a problem and then it died again on the NYS Thruway, once again my cell phone was there to call for help and snap pics of my misery. (The screen mysteriously fixed itself. Wish I could say the same for my car.)

Even when I realized that I wouldn’t get my car back in time to go to work on Monday, I could research alternatives on my iPad, coordinate schedules via text messages and have my e-tickets in the palm of my hand via the Amtrak app on my phone.

And now, here I am…. on the Vermonter from Penn Station to Essex Junction…. finishing this post on my laptop.

We live in an amazing time, when mechanical devices and technologies can both complicate and simplify, frustrate and dazzle, be the cause and the solution. It all changes our experiences for the better, and for the worse.

This trip would have been very different if I had not had a car with sophisticated sensors and systems, a smartphone with GPS and unlimited data, an iPad with Spotify and Kindle books or a laptop with a webcam and Evernote.

And maybe a different kind of trip would have been much preferred.

But then again, this train is pretty comfortable, coffee is free in business class and the views are spectacular. It’s fairly relaxing, actually. And isn’t that what vacation is all about?

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